Flying Cars Will Only Be Eco-friendly If We Use Them Right

michiganflying-carmedia
An artistic rendering of an electric flying taxi mid-flight. Dave Brenner/University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

Skipping rush hour traffic by hopping in a flying taxi may seem like science fiction, but a number of corporations and startups are currently working on prototypes. In October, Cora—a company testing electric, autonomous flying cars—partnered with Air New Zealand in a step toward commercialization. And Boeing tested out their own self-driving air taxi in January. Even Uber has unveiled plans to launch a flying vehicle service by 2023.

These prototypes are electric and don’t give off any planet-warming greenhouse gases during flight, but mining and producing the electricity to charge their batteries is still an environmental cost. But the flying air taxis of the near future, which can both hover like helicopters and glide like airplanes, might be more energy efficient than you’d think—provided you carpool and only use them for long-distance travel.

That’s according to scientists at the University of Michigan, who recently considered the energy costs of these vehicles compared to ground-based cars.

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Could Driverless Cars Pick Up Passengers In Wheelchairs? (3-29-19)

The future of transportation is approaching. GETTY

Last week, the Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a lawsuit against Lyft in California for not having any wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area. By not having the adequately equipped vehicles to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs, Lyft is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, this is far from being the only case that transportation has been made inaccessible to people with disabilities, nor is California the only state with this problem.

For example, in New York City, only 112 of MTA’s 472 subway stations are accessible, and out of those, 100 are currently working in both directions. Additionally, less than 1,800 of the city’s 13,000+ yellow cabs are equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps, which means less than 15% of the taxis are accessible to New Yorkers with mobility difficulties.

However, as we approach a new era of transportation, notably driverless cars, it is crucial to keep the issue of accessibility at the forefront of our minds.

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D.C. Lawmakers Propose Stricter Regulations On Self-Driving Cars (4-3-19)

In 2013, the District became one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to pass a lawgoverning the operations of self-driving cars—also known as autonomous vehicles—on public rights of way. Now, with the vehicles growing in popularity nationally and Ford testing them on D.C. roads, several local legislators want to make those regulations stricter through two new bills.

On Tuesday, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the Council’s committee on transportation and the environment, pitched the “Autonomous Vehicles Testing Program Amendment Act of 2019,” along with Ward 6Councilmember Charles Allen and Chairman Phil Mendelson. The bill would set up a permitting process for autonomous vehicle testing within the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which would have to review and approve such permit applications. Companies that seek to test self-driving cars in the city would have to provide an array of information to officials, including on each vehicle it plans to test, safety operators in the test vehicles, testing locations, insurance, and safety strategies.

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Congestion Pricing In Manhattan, First Such Plan In U.S., Is Close To Approval (3-25-19)

New York moved closer to formalizing a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan, as the leader of the State Assembly indicated on Monday that his members were “ready to go forward.” Dave Sanders for The New York Times

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ALBANY — After years of hesitation, New York is poised to become the first city in the United States to introduce congestion pricing, which would put new electronic tolls in place for drivers entering the busiest stretches of Manhattan.

Though state leaders have not ironed out details, they had reached consensus on Monday that the plan was necessary to help pay for much-needed repairs to the city’s beleaguered subway system.

The proceeds from congestion pricing are expected to enable the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s public transit network, to raise billions of dollars in bonds to modernize the antiquated subway. Such a windfall overwhelmed lingering concerns about various aspects of the plan, including the cost to commuters in the boroughs and suburbs outside Manhattan who rely on cars.

Other American cities are exploring variations of congestion pricing, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The idea dates back decades, with supporters often pointing to an array of health, safety and environmental benefits, including reducing air pollution and pedestrian injuries, and alleviating the stranglehold on gridlocked city streets.

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New York City Is Getting Its First-Ever Autonomous Shuttle Service (3-21-19)

Autonomous vehicles will soon start transporting passengers in New York City, but they won’t have to deal with the Big Apple’s notorious traffic. Optimus Ride will deploy low-speed autonomous shuttles on private streets within the Brooklyn Navy Yard later this year.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard hasn’t churned out a battleship in decades, but it has been developed into a 300-acre industrial park which hosts over 400 businesses with 9,000 employees. Shuttles will operate on a loop from a ferry dock on the East River, across the Navy Yard, to an exit to public streets at Flushing Avenue. Optimus Ride claims this will be the first “commercial self-driving vehicle program” in the state of New York.

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